A PROUD father held his son tightly in his arms as his Lancashire’s soldiers were given a heroes’ welcome in Burnley.

Little Riley Lindsay, aged 18 months, waited patiently to greet his dad, Kingsman Nathan Lindsay, outside Burnley Town Hall as members of 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment paraded through the town centre yesterday afternoon.

ABOVE: Watch a video of the parade

Riley and his mum, Naomi Cook, 20, were among thousands who waved flags as more than 120 soldiers made their way from St Peter’s Church to the town hall.

Kingsman Lindsay, 21, said: “It felt good knowing my family would be here. I’m lucky because some people’s families aren’t here. I think it took them a while to find me in the crowd.”

Families, schoolchildren and workers lined the route to show their appreciation for the troops, who have just returned from a six-month stint at Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan.

The town centre came to a standstill as around 3,000 well-wishers cheered on the battalion from Church Street, down Yorkshire Street, St James’s Street, Hammerton Street, Hargreaves Street and Manchester Road.

Earlier, at a church service, soldiers paid their respects to their comrade, 23-year-old Kingsman David Shaw, from Barrow-in-Furness, who was shot dead in January.

Outside the town hall, Colonel Steve Davies MBE, Deputy Colonel of the Regiment, thanked the crowd.

Col Davies, from Darwen, said: “I am proud to be British. I am proud to be a member of the finest Army in the world.

“And I am particularly proud to be here in Burnley being honoured by the town’s people.

“The British Army draws its lifeblood from its supporters. The soldier fights, obviously, for Queen and country, but he fights best when he knows that those back home care.

“We today are emotionally humbled that a fantastic crowd turned out to congratulate and commemorate your soldiers.

“The fact that we remember is an important part of sustaining our armed forces.

“From the humble, proud and sturdy streets of Burnley and the towns of East Lancashire marched soldiers to the First World War. Many never returned, but as a nation we take great pride in ensuring that their memory is perpetuated. We value these rare occasions to get onto your streets and absorb your hospitality.”

Coun Frank Cant, the new Mayor of Burnley, said: “I wish to acknowledge the debt that we owe you for the difficult and dangerous task you have undertaken. I, my fellow Mayors and other civic guests from across Lancashire will remember this day with pride for many years to come.”

An emotional Nancy Shaw, from Blackburn, wept as her son, Kingsman Jamie Shaw, 22, marched past her on Hammerton Street.

She said: “I am one proud mummy. He’s been away for six months and I think it’s absolutely brilliant that Burnley has held this parade.”

Kingsman Conor Leighton, 18, from Bacup, said: “It’s a good feeling being back.

“When you first come back it’s quite emotional seeing your family. It’s quite good. I’m just looking forward to the future now.”

Corporal Ben Simpson, 34, from Altham, was greeted by his grandmother Shelia Haythornthwaite.

He said: “It’s emotional being back. I had a lot of family here but I couldn’t give them a wave because I think I’d have been in trouble if I did.”

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Wood, Commanding Officer of 1 LANCS, said: “It was fantastic. It’s amazing to see so many people lining the streets showing their appreciation and the lads feel real gratitude and an immense sense of pride to be able to march through the streets here and receive that applause.

“It’s a wonderful end to our tour in Afghanistan, not only to receive the support, but also to say thank you to Burnley.”

The troops were due to return to their base in Catterick, North Yorkshire last night after enjoying lunch and a civic reception at the town hall.

The 1st Battalion’s recent deployment to Afghanistan is likely to be its last.